CHENNAI: In a season where toss has played a huge role in the outcome of a contest, Rajasthan Royals have been an exception. Seven of their nine wins in the league stage came when they batted first and in each of those, Sanju Samson, ended up losing the toss.
No captain in the history of the IPL has lost as many as 13 tosses in a single edition. Yet, with a bit of luck – which you need in the format – they ended up second in the league table, thereby giving themselves two shots at reaching the final. At the Narendra Modi Stadium, for a change Samson called correctly. He gleefully chose to bowl first against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
On a fresh wicket which had bounce and grip, all that Rajasthan needed was their bowling unit to come good. They have bowled in worse situations at the start of the tournament with their two spinners – R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal – even operating with water-soaked balls. But courtesy the scoreboard cushion provided by a red-hot Jos Buttler, and the guile of their spinners to go with new ball bowlers Trent Boult and Prasidh Krishna, it meant Rajasthan found a way.
On Friday, with dew out of the equation and Chahal having a rare off-day, going for 45 runs without taking a wicket, and Ashwin picking up only one wicket (1/31), their pace unit made the most of the conditions. Prasidh, Boult and Obed McCoy rose to the occasion. With the pitch offering good bounce and pacers finding movement, they kept Bangalore in check. Every time a Bangalore batter looked set, the quicks ensured they didn’t last long. Rajat Patidar, the centurion in the Qualifier I, was the lone exception on the night scoring 58.
If Prasidh started by removing Virat Kohli, McCoy took care of Faf du Plessis, Mahipal Lomror and Harshal Patel, apart from taking a well-judged catch to dismiss Glenn Maxwell for Boult’s only wicket. But it was Prasidh who crushed Bangalore’s hopes. For a team that has stuck to a plan with the batting order, Friday was no different. It is the slog overs that Bangalore usually target and have even pulled a coup or two. So when Dinesh Karthik, their designated finisher, walked in the middle of the 16th over with 130 onboard, Bangalore looked set to post a big total on board, especially if one goes by Rajasthan’s worries with the ball at the death.
After McCoy gave only seven runs in the 18th over, the 19th was supposed to be made or break for Bangalore. And Prasidh ensured Bangalore didn’t get any leeway as he removed Karthik and Wanindu Hasaranga off successive balls and gave only eight runs. And with McCoy conceding only three runs off the final over, Bangalore scored only 27 runs off the last four overs and ended up with 157/8.
The total was never sufficient from the moment Yashasvi Jaiswal scored 16 runs of the first over as Buttler took over from there. The opener’s fourth century of the season meant Rajasthan jogged to the final for only the second time.
Brief scores: RCB 157/8 in 20 ovs (Patidar 58; Prasidh 3/22, McCoy 3/23) lost to RR 161/3 in 18.1 ovs (Buttler 106 n.o).